Why Are Web Browsers Free? - PC SEEKERS

Why Are Web Browsers Free?

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Popular web browsing software actually used to cost money. In fact it was not until 1998 that Netscape navigator became free to use for regular consumers. But almost no one pays for web browsers any more. So, why are the companies that developed them giving them out for free? Do they just hate money? Of course not.


Also Read: People Cards on Google Search In India


Web browsers are actually monetized quite heavily and do make money. It's just that it's not always obvious to an end user, like you or me, how that happens. So let's take a look at how some of the popular web browsers keep themselves afloat, starting with the biggest one of them all:

Google Chrome:


Credits: Chrome

It turns out that the development of the world's most popular web browser is easily supported by the things that it merely encourages its users to do. For example, Chrome's search feature automatically uses Google as its default search engine which invariable will serve you the ads that make up a huge part of Google's revenue. 

Once you click off of Google's search page many of the ads that you see through out the web are also hosted to Google. So, the idea is that it makes sense for Google to build and maintain a browser that gets people on the web and just browsing which will lead them to look at Google's ads. It also does not hurt that Chrome steers users towards using Google's own suite of apps such Gmail, Google Drive and Google Maps -  some of which are ad supported while others offer paid versions for extra functionality such as more storage space. 
Credits: Google Drive

But did you know that Google actually pays to prop up on competing web browsers? We will get to that later in the article.


 Credits: Edge

By the way this is very similar to how Microsoft's edge browser works and makes money as well. Only by directing people to Microsoft's own search engine Bing and it's own advertisements instead


 Mozilla Firefox:

 Credits: Firefox

As we mentioned above that Google pays other competing web browsers to use Google Search as its default search engine. Just as Google aims to use Chrome to direct users to its services, it also tries to get other browsers to do the same thing. Mozilla Firefox is a great example of this, Google has made multiple deals with Mozilla over the years to make Google Firefox's default search engine in certain markets. Firefox got a little over half a billion dollars in royalties in 2017.


Other search engines like Yandex and Baidu have also contributed large amounts of money to Mozilla which has become quite important to Firefox's survival as it's usage share has been declining for a number of years. Although Mozilla still operates as a non-profit and does still receive contributions from folks who just feel like donating, the vast majority of its income now comes from its search engine royalties.

 Credits: Mozilla

Credits: Safari

Similarly Apple's  Safari gets quite hefty royalties from Google even more than Firefox. Google made a deal to pay Apple a whopping 12 Billion dollars in 2019 to make sure that Google would stay Safari's default search service and although it seems strange since Google and Apple compete directly against each other in other areas such as in smartphones, Google apparently makes way more than it's payments to Apple on the increased Ad revenue that it gets back. 

Credits: Brave
To take things in a different direction, let's have quick look at the brave browser known for its focus on user privacy. Although the way they do it is a bit unique as it is based around a crypto currency called Basic Attention Token or BAT. Users can opt in to a rewards program that will pay them in BAT for viewing ads with 70% of the revenue going to users and remaining 30% to the developers of Brave.
Credits: Opera
Opera, a browser that still has a substantial cult following. In addition to the aforementioned search engine royalties they also have deals with sites like eBay to get placed on users main speed dial page and have partnered with Smartphone manufacturers like Xiaomi to preinstall the browser on their devices. Then there was a recent scandal where it appeared that Opera was using apps in certain countries to offer predatory loans with absurdly high interest rates. 

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